Westminster College Observes 65th Anniversary of Churchill Speech about "Iron Curtain" in Europe
This weekend, Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri will commemorate the 65th anniversary of Winston Churchill giving his famous address on the campus. It was during this speech on March 5th, 1946 that Churchill said an “iron curtain” had descended across Europe, a phrase that became a part of the Cold War vernacular. KSMU’s Missy Shelton reports.
If you visit Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, you might get the sense of its place in history as you gaze up at the towering Christopher Wren church or literally walk through cut outs in sections of the Berlin Wall. History will come to life this Saturday and Sunday as the campus celebrates the 65th anniversary of the speech that Winston Churchill gave there.Rob Havers is executive director of the National Churchill Museum on the Westminster campus. He explains why Churchill ended up giving such a monumental speech in the small mid-Missouri town.
Havers says, “He’s invited by the then-Westminster College President Frank McClure. He issued the invite to Winston Churchill, but he used, quite cleverly, the offices of another Westminster alumnus, a gentleman named Harry Vaughn, who was a major general and a military aid to Truman. It is Harry Vaughn who persuades Truman to add a handwritten note, postscript to the invitation that said, ‘This is a great college in my home state. Please say you’ll do it. I’ll introduce you. Best regards, Harry Truman.’ Winston Churchill, who had been comparatively recently defeated in the general election in July, 1945, and Churchill received this invite in the fall of 1945, Churchill understands that if he comes to the United States and is introduced by the incumbent president, then the eyes of the nation, and certainly probably the world, will be on him.”
Havers says Truman and Churchill traveled together by train to Missouri from Washington D.C. He says Churchill’s speech was very important to the American public.
Havers says, “Churchill delivers what is a very significant message, namely that our ally in the Second World War, the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin, have ambitions on perhaps possibly Western Europe and they’re certainly not the friendly ally we had depended on during World War Two, and that they have their own agenda, and that it’s necessary in the post-war world, not simply to celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany and Japan and be happy, but to be very much minded about a future conflict, or the possibility of that. So this is what Churchill encapsulates in that speech at Fulton. It’s formally entitled ‘The Sinews of Peace’ but it’s best known for that dramatic line when he comments that ‘an iron curtain has descended across the continent.’ This, of course, proves to be a tremendously a posit metaphor for the way in which the Cold War develops in the next few years and the way in which the continent of Europe, and perhaps the wider world, is divided for those 40 years of the Cold War.”
In recognition of the 65th anniversary of the speech, Havers says Westminster will host two distinguished guests this weekend.
Havers says, “The British Ambassador is coming from D.C., and that’s a gentleman called Sir Nigel Schweinwald. He’s going to deliver a speech on Saturday night at a gala dinner. The next morning, we’re having our annual Kemper lecture, but it’s a special one this year because the lecturer is a gentleman called Sir Max Hastings. He wrote, really a ground breaking biography of Winston Churchill last year.”
The lecture by Sir Max Hastings is free and open to the public. Tickets are still available for the Saturday evening gala dinner with Sir Nigel Schweinwald. We have a link to more information about the events at Westminster College on our website, KSMU.org.